Posted on: November 4, 2010 10:11 am
Edited on: November 4, 2010 10:13 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
With four straight seasons of at least eight wins and a 3-1 bowl record in that span, a shortsighted college football fan can forget at times just how new the South Florida program is to college football. Started in 1997, the Bulls are the nation's youngest BCS program. In just 14 seasons, South Florida has jumped from Division I-AA, to I-A Independence, to Conference USA, and now a member of the BCS automatic qualifying Big East.
On Thursday night, South Florida defeated Rutgers 28-27 for the program's 100th victory. Interesting that it came against one of the competing teams in the first college football game ever. Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4, and the 141st anniversary of that game will be on Saturday. But Thursday night would be an evening for the youth. For first-year head coach Skip Holtz, it was a win that also put the Bulls just a game away from their sixth straight season of bowl eligibility. After a rocky 3-3 start, there was some doubt in Tampa if the streak would make continue into Holtz' tenure.
So it is only fitting that on the historic night for the South Florida program, the Bulls were led by one of their oldest players. Sixth-year senior running back Moise Plancher rushed 21 times for a career high 135 yards, ending a four-game losing streak against the Scarlet Knights. Plancher has suffered through a torn ACL, dislocated elbow, and shoulder surgery since enrolling at South Florida, making Thursday night a special night for the 23 year-old senior as well.
South Florida is likely out of the Big East title hunt, but after turning around an 0-2 conference start with two straight wins the Bulls have a chance (though it is a long shot) to match the 8-win seasons of 2008 and 2009. The Bulls now have a long week ahead before traveling to Louisville to face the Cardinals November 13.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 7:36 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
By now, virtually everyone in the college football world expects the Big East to proceed with all possible haste in its expansion from eight to ten teams in football. The only school confirmed as a target to date is Villanova , which could have a reserved spot if it decides to make the finanical commitment to make the jump from FCS to FBS competition.
But for all the discussion surrounding TCU and UCF -- who virtually everyone also expects to be the conference's top two targets if Villanova declines, or possibly regardless of what the Wildcats decide -- they might as well be confirmed targets. Official confirmation, however, hasn't come just yet. The report out of Fort Worth today:
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said he has not been contacted about the expansion.And out of Orlando :
UCF Athletics officials released a statement Wednesday that said, “There has been no contact between UCF and the Big East Conference. We continue to be a proud member of Conference USA.”The former statement may not be entirely accurate , as reports as far back as September suggested the Horned Frogs and Big East were in the most preliminary of discussions. For now, it looks like any Big East expansion announcements may come quickly by conference expansion standards ... but they won't be instantaneous, either. Barring some unforeseen thunderbolt from the league office, the biggest news on TCU's campus this week will still be the showdown with Utah .
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:45 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 4:55 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Big East has been busy making headlines this week with the announcement of planned expansion to ten football-playing schools. The announcement solidifies many reports and has started speculation on everything from school selection, to timeframe, and even the potential changes to the college football landscape. Seems fitting that the Big East would choose this week to make their most significant off-field announcement, because there is very little action on the field in Week 10.
Last week, Pittsburgh and Syracuse separated themselves from the rest of the conference by picking up their third conference victory. Behind them is 1-1 Rutgers, and the rest of the conference is tied at 1-2. The Panthers are not only a half-game ahead of the Orange, but also own the tiebreaker against Syracuse and Rutgers thanks to victories earlier in the season. With only a month left in conference play the conference race is not over, but PIttsburgh does carry their own fate from here on out. It would require two conference losses for the Panthers to be in jeopardy of losing the automatic BCS berth, and even then another team would have to win out.
But the conference still holds six bowl ties, and every team is still technically capable of making the postseason at this point. Most of the games left on the schedule are all conference games, and with seven teams 4-4 or better, each game will hold extra importance to anyone hoping to play football in December. So while it may be hard to chase down conference-leading Pittsburgh, there is still plenty to play for. The Panthers get Week 10 off, as does West Virginia, Connecticut, and Cincinnati.
Wednesday - Rutgers at South Florida - While they try to keep their focus on the field, it is impossible to ignore the health of defensive tackle Eric LaGrand, paralyzed while making a tackle against Army on October 16. Thankfully, LaGrand was transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center on Wednesday, which as about as good as news will come on that front. With a win, South Florida could come within a game of bowl eligibility. It has been an up and down season for first-year head coach Skip Holtz, and a postseason berth would put a happy ending on his trial run with the Bulls. I expect quarterback B.J. Daniels to build on his four TD performance against Cincinnati with another big outing. PICK - South Florida 28, Rutgers 21
Saturday - Louisville at Syracuse - Louisville could be without Bilal Powell, the conference's leading rusher, but will get backup Victor Anderson back for the first time in three games. The Cardinal rushing attack is ranked among the top 25 in the nation, but they will face their greatest challenge against the Syracuse defense. In the six Syracuse victories, the Orange have held their opponents to 14 points or less. They have complimented that defense with a patient and effective rushing attack of their own, headed by Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. Syracuse has been clicking recently, and already looks like a different team than the one that got throttled 45-14 by Pittsburgh. The Orange have been successful on the road, and I do not see them changing their execution at home. PICK - Syracuse 19, Louisville 14
Posted on: November 3, 2010 3:40 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
When looking at the Big East, it is rare that you consider any aspect of the eight teams a "force," but the Louisville rushing attack is one of the few nationally recognized aspects of the conference. Senior running back Bilal Powell leads the Big East in rushing with 1,067 yards already on the season, good enough for fifth in the nation as well. Louisville is not exactly a player in the Big East title hunt at this point, but at 4-4 the Cardinal are still very much in the running for one of the conference's bowl berths. Which is why Powell's potential absence against Syracuse on Saturday presents a problem for Charlie Strong's squad.
Powell is the first Louisville running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since junior Victor Anderson did it his freshman year. Anderson has missed the last three games due to a shoulder injury, but has been cleared to play and back in practice this week. Anderson has been in "full pads, full contact, the whole deal," according to offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.
Anderson will likely find himself right in the mix against a stout Orange defense due to Powell left the Pittsburgh game with a knee injury, and has missed practice this week due to swelling in that knee. As of now, Strong has ruled Powell as a game-time decision. Louisville will need Anderson to step up against the Syracuse defense, which has held the opposition to 14 points or less in the six victories on the season.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 10:11 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 10:20 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
As you probably know by now, the Big East has decided to expand the number of football playing teams in the conference from eight to ten. This decision was reached during a regularly scheduled meeting of the athletic directors and presidents of all sixteen conference schools in Philadelphia.
The decision was unanimous, and conference commissioner John Marinatto indicated that the evaluation of potential expansion candidates will begin immediately. However, the unofficial evaluation process has been ongoing for some time. The conference approached Villanova, a member of the Big East in the other Olympic sports, back in September to discuss a move from the FCS, though no official offer was extended.
Villanova appears to be an easy selection for one of the two new spots in the conference. The addition of the Wildcats would be as painless as it comes for the rest of the schools, but that does not mean it would be free of roadblocks. The NCAA requires a two-year transition period for a school to move from the FCS to the BCS, and there is some concern as to if Villanova could replicate the success that brought them an FCS National Championship immediately against BCS-caliber opponents. In all likelihood, Villanova winning the FCS National Championship was one of tipping points to accelerate the discussion of the jump to join their Big East brethren on the gridiron.
For the Big East to fill both spots in the planned expansion, they will likely have to bring in a school from outside the conference in the other Olympic sports. Making that move will take the work of some big guns, like former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Tagliabue has been hired as a consultant to help with the deal, among other things the formation of a possible TV network.
One giant boost to the television value of the conference would be the addition of TCU. Rumors of discussions between TCU and the Big East began to circulate back in September, with both sides remaining ambiguously mum on the issue. Now with the blessing of the Board of Directors, those discussions can (and may likely) become serious fast. Under head coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs have become perennial powerhouses on the national college football scene. In addition to bringing national interest, TCU would also bring the Big East to the football audience in the Dallas/Fort-Worth area.
But would this be a good move for TCU? The greatest appeal the Big East can offer is an automatic bid to the BCS, though some have argued that with the future arrival of Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State, the Mountain West Conference may be on their way to gaining AQ status. But as the teams shuffle, there are no promises that new MWC will carry the same weight as it has in recent years.
Sources have also reported Central Florida, Houston, and Temple as other possible candidates for the two new spots in the Big East. Central Florida and Houston would be able to offer the major markets that the Big East would prefer in order to negotiate a major television deal. Temple also is a former Big East conference member.
There is still plenty of negotiation ahead, but in my opinion the best move for the Big East would be to TCU and Villanova. If the Horned Frogs join the conference only for football, then no adjustments would be necessary for the rest of the Olympic sports. It would be an immediate upgrade for the conference to gain a program that has finished ranked in the Top 25 seven times since 2000.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 7:27 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 7:31 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
If recent rumors are to be believed -- and there's no indication that they're overblown -- one of the two teams that will be joining the Big East's football conference is TCU. If that turns out to be true, that's seriously bad news for the Mountain West, and in particular, Boise State.
Consider this: Boise State has been limited for years by the creampuff-soft level of competition in the WAC when it comes to building a championship-level resume. Some would argue that such a comically easy slate of opponents has also been instrumental in getting Boise State to perennial double-digit wins in the first place, and that argument certainly has some merit, but it seems pretty clear that Boise knows its chances of playing for a national title are greatly enhanced when it plays real competition on a more regular basis. Hence, their move to the Mountain West.
That Mountain West, by the way, has certainly seemed like a more plausible candidate for an automatic BCS bid than, say, the Big East over the past few seasons. Adding another high-caliber football program like the Broncos would have likely sealed the conference's (and Boise's) reputation as unassailable, and shifted the balance of power in college football west.
Alas, that Mountain West will never exist. Just days after Boise State announced their intentions to head to the MWC, Utah accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10, which was sort of expected even beforehand. BYU announced its intentions to go independent in 2011 some months later, and now TCU's likely headed east. Replacing these three teams, then, will be Boise State... and Fresno State and Nevada. WAC, WAC, and WAC.
Indeed, by the time these moves all get made, the Mountain West won't look like a new power conference at all; if anything, it'll just be the WAC 2.0, but with fewer trips to Honolulu and more to Las Vegas. Hey, win some, lose some. But a conference led by Boise, Fresno State, and Nevada didn't get a sniff from the BCS Committee when it comes to awarding an automatic BCS bid (and guaranteeing BCS money), and it won't this time around either. Boise State's strength of schedule will still continue to suffer, and the Bronco faithful will still be left calling for a playoff when their team dominates and isn't granted a shot at the national title. That cannot possibly be what Boise State had in mind when they announced plans to join the Mountain West just five months ago.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 11:24 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
On the field, the Big East has failed to make a dent in the national scene this year. The conference has been openly criticized by many, and with just a month left in regular season play there is not a single Big East team in the current Top 25. Off the field, the presidents and athletic directors are gathering this week to work on changing their reputation. It is being reported by several sources that one of the hot topics to be covered in this meeting is a "probable expansion."
The regularly scheduled meeting will likely be tense with debate as the football-playing members of the conference will be pushing to expand the eight team conference, possibly by including current national powerhouse TCU. A New York Post report indicated that TCU and Central Florida are both very interested, with Houston, Temple, and Villanova also being mentioned as leading candidates.
"The goal is to get the presidents' blessing to seriously pursue teams," said one Big East athletic director. "I don't think we're going to get pushback on that."
If they do get the green-light, sources are reporting that invitations could be offered by the end of this college football season. But getting everyone involved to rally around expansion may not be easy for the non-football schools in the conference. Adding a team to the football conference would likely mean adding them to the already vast 16 team conference from many of the non-football sports.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:32 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. West Virginia has been giving away their season, one turnover at a time - Just three weeks ago, West Virginia was "leading" the Big East. They toted a 5-1 record and a national ranking, as well as a top ranked defensive unit that was holding opponents to less than two touchdowns per game. But while the season was at a midpoint, the conference schedule was just getting started. But in the last two games, turnovers have almost cost the Mountaineers their shot at a BCS bowl berth. The eye test said that the Mountaineers were cruising on easy street down to Miami, until they decided they were tired of taking care of the ball. Against Syracuse West Virginia turned the ball over three times, all of which were turned into points for the Orange. Saturday's matchup with Connecticut was more of the same from the Mountaineer offense. West Virginia racked up 414 yards of total offense, but four lost fumbles prevented them from scoring more than 13 points on the Huskies defense. If the Mountaineers avoid coughing the ball up, they could be 3-0 in conference play and looking down the road to a potential BCS bowl game. But instead of the Mountaineers, it is the Pittsburgh Panthers. Speaking of...
2. Lewis has reclaimed the favor of the Pittsburgh coaching staff - Earlier in the season, Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis was struggling to get his season going. His yards per carry were down from his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign, and he was sharing many of his carries with backup Ray Graham. Now that conference play has begun, Lewis has emerged as the clear-cut but first stringer in the Panther backfield. After a phenomenal performance last week against Rutgers that included 17 rushes for 130 yards and a touchdown, Lewis appeared to have regained the starting job despite Graham continuing to lead the team in rushing by a convincing margin. In the win over Louisville, Lewis carried the ball 18 times compared to Graham's nine attempts. Earlier in the season, that was much more of a 50-50 divide between the two backs. Now Lewis must make the most of his increased opportunities in order to hold that spot.
3. Syracuse's tenacious second half defense is a key to their success - In five of the Orange's six victories, the defense has shut out the opponent in the second half. Syracuse's offense has relied on a dominant running game led by Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. The smash mouth brand of football under second year head coach Doug Marrone has turned last season's 1-6 conference record around to 3-1 at the midpoint of the conference schedule. Syracuse has only been to a bowl game twice since since 2000 and not at all since 2004, but the 2010 Orange are already bowl eligible at 6-2. A conference championship may be out of reach after the loss to Pittsburgh, but anything is an upgrade from the way things have been at Syracuse.